HC Deb 20 February 1912 vol 34 cc452-4

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether five men from the Highlands of Scotland were dismissed this week from the Government works at Rosyth because they had conscientious objections to work on Sunday; and, if so, whether he will urge that these men be reinstated and see that their objections to Sunday labour are respected?

The CIVIL LORD to the ADMIRALTY (Mr. George Lambert)

Inquiry has been made, and the contractor states that there is no case of a workman being discharged for not working on Sunday, and that he has no knowledge of the dismissal of five men from the Highlands. Men with conscientious objections have been permitted to abstain from any work on Sunday, and objections to Sunday labour are always respected.


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether his attention has been called to an outbreak of infectious disease amongst the navvies engaged upon the new dock works at Rosyth; whether he is aware that the hospital accommodation had proved inadequate, and that some cases had to be transferred to Kirkcaldy, some twelve miles distant, because of the neglect of his Department to supply any hospital accommodation at or near the works; and whether he proposes to take any action in the matter?


A local report has been obtained. Ten cases of men employed on the Rosyth dock works were affected by this outbreak of measles. The cases occurring in a common lodging-house had to be removed to the hospital. The hospital at Dunfermline being full they were taken to Kirkcaldy Hospital. Provision of accommodation for cases of infectious disease is a matter for the local authority.


Do I understand the answer of the hon. Gentleman to be that the Government take no responsibility for the housing of the men?


I do not think the Admiralty can take responsibility for an outbreak of measles.


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will state when he proposes to visit the new dock works at Rosyth; and whether he will make arrangements to meet a deputation of navvies, to hear their grievances as to low wages, bad housing, and total absence of hospital accommodation at or near these works?


It is my intention to visit the works at Rosyth at an early date. With regard to the proposal that I should meet a deputation of the navvies, I would point out that they are not in our employment; that the contractors and ourselves have mutually entered into an obligation respecting rates of wages; and that our duty is to see that obligation carried out. I am aware that my hon. Friend has frequently contended that this is not being done; but careful and painstaking examination of his complaints have led the Board of Admiralty to take a different view; and my hon. Friend has been more than once advised in this sense. But my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary will be very glad to confer with him personally if he has any new matters which he desires to bring forward.


When the right hon. Gentleman pays a visit to Rosyth will he please go without giving previous notice?


I cannot undertake that.


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he has received any communication from the representatives of hired workmen employed in the Royal dockyards and naval ordnance departments on the question of pensions; and whether he will say what reply, if any, he gave to the communication?


At recent hearings of the workmen's petitions the question has been raised as to whether it would be practicable to frame a self-supporting superannuation scheme for employés not entitled to a retiring allowance under the scheme of the establishment. An undertaking has been given that the Board of Admiralty will have the matter examined, and advise the men as to the weekly contribution they would probably have to make to a scheme of this sort. Our inquiries have not yet reached a stage which enables us to make the further communication which has been promised.


Is it not a fact that the First Lord of the Admiralty has refused to receive a deputation?


Not to my knowledge.